The Bellingham City Council supports alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders. Jail should not be used as a fallback because of insufficient mental health and substance use treatment.
Improving procedures in the criminal justice system also contributes to incarceration reduction. The City of Bellingham has taken the lead in piloting jail alternatives such as electronic home monitoring, and supports countywide efforts to reduce the jail population.
The City supports existing or new incarceration alternatives such as
Drug Court and a
Mental Health Court. The City Council is helping to develop reforms through involvement in Whatcom County's
Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force, which is identifying new programs or activities to reduce the jail population -- such as improved delivery of local mental health and substance abuse treatment services, and reduction in inappropriate use of the emergency room, 911, and the jail. Justice procedural reforms, such as pretrial risk assessment and provision of pretrial services, are also being considered.
Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force Phase III Report, December 5, 2017
Letter from City Council to Whatcom County Council expressing jail concerns, June 20, 2017
Anne Deacon, "Whatcom County mental health court helps keep people out of jail, in treatment," Bellingham Herald, May 10, 2017
- Resolution, April 15, 2016, Statement of Incarceration Prevention and Criminal Justice Planning Principles
City Council Justice Committee
In July 2017 the Bellingham City Council created a new Justice Committee to explore City investments into incarceration alternatives and improved justice procedures. Meeting videos are linked below.
Video, December 4, 2017: Discussion of draft resolution on guiding principles for justice and justice systems
- Video, November 13, 2017: Discussion of Justice Principles
- Video, October 23, 2017: Vera Institute of Justice on Incarceration Reduction Strategies
- Video, October 9, 2017: Current Bellingham alternatives to incarceration
Video, September 25, 2017: Role of the City Prosecutor; Case processing
Video, September 11, 2017: City of Bellingham Policing Procedures
Video, August 7, 2017: Electronic Home Monitoring; use of Yakima jail
Whatcom County Jail Stakeholder Workgroup
Two members of the Bellingham City Council participated in a jail stakeholder workgroup set up by the Whatcom County Council. The City Council supported a City-County Memorandum of Agreement to commit at least 25% of available revenues from a jail capital bond to activities that reduce incarceration of individuals with behavioral health conditions, and minimize jail utilization by pretrial defendants who can safely be released.